Arkansas swim and dive team is looking to turn some heads this season. They plan on making a big jump in their conference compared to last year.
Razorback head coach Neil Harper said that they have certainly raised the bar. They want to be better and go up a couple of spots in the national rankings. Their goal is to make it into the top 25 this year.
The Razorbacks, last year, sent four athletes to the NCAA tournament, but this year, they want to send a minimum six or more, said Harper.
The Hogs have continued their non-conference dual-meet win streak to 27 wins with a victory over SMU on Sept. 15.
This year the girls have worked really hard. SMU is a good team with great history. They have certainly been ranked in past year, according to Harper.
“They’ve always had NCAA qualifiers, NCAA scorers and swimmers that have gone to the Olympics and world championships,” Harper said. “They’re definitely a program that we respect and to get a win and continue that streak has been really impressive.”
Dual meets have a point system to determine the winner of the meet. First place in an event gets nine points, second gets four, third gets three, fourth gets two and fifth place gets one point. So, when one team gets fifth place it is a two point swing for the team because they got one point and the other team got none. It is critical to try to win and get more points but sometimes it comes down to strategy, Harper said.
Ayumi Macias, as a freshman, was one of the swimmers that was sent to the NCAA meet last year. She is from Aguascalientes, Mexico. She is going into her sophomore season and she is looking to continue her success and being a leader for this Razorback team. Over the summer, she had her appendix taken out. At first it was a bit of a task to recuperate, but it does not seem to be bothering her at all now, Macias said.
“When I came here, the first thing that I loved was the city,” Macias said. “Also the sunset, the school, all the green areas and the team was a really good thing. All the girls are so nice and, I don’t know, I just fell in love with the city.”
Macias garnered All-SEC freshman honors last season.
“I was so happy about it,” Macias said. “I didn’t swim as well as I wanted to in the SEC, but I think everything went as planned. It was just so great. I was so happy.”
This year the Razorbacks go against three teams in the SEC: South Carolina, Oct. 14 in Columbia, Missouri, Vanderbilt twice, Nov. 4 in Nashville, Tennessee and Jan. 19-20 in Houston, Texas and Tennessee, Jan. 13 at home. They hope to improve from last years 1-3 record in the conference, Harper said.
Erin Kelly is from Collierville, Tennessee and is going into her junior year. She plans on going into this year having more of a voice. Freshman and sophomore year are all about figuring yourself out and figuring out your role, said Kelly.
“I expect us to continue to grow,” Kelly said. “We have that goal of, you know, be better than we were last year. We’re on this upward trek of how hard we can push ourselves and (seeing) what we can achieve.”
When asked about Macias and Kelly, Harper had a lot of good things to say about them.
Macias and Kelly bring a great demeanor to practice. They have both learned to do well and have success through hard work. Both are very talented, but most of all their hard work has propelled them to accel, Harper said.
“I’m proud of what they do and how they have done it, and that’s the kind of thing that kind of separates them. They are willing to put in the extra work. They are willing to come watch video. They are willing to accept criticism and make changes. That is why they have improved a lot.”
The Razorbacks look to continue their season against South Carolina on Oct. 14 in Columbia, Missouri.
“It has been a lot of fun, and it’s exciting. They race. They work hard every day. They push each other. They don’t settle for anything less,” Harper said. “I think because of this, we’ll have a great year.